Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Caroline Wozniacki is likely to be an early visitor to Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park following her disappointing clay court season.
The 2009 AEGON International champion suffered a shock 90-minute two set defeat to Serbian star Bojana Jovanovski at the 2013 French Open.
The former world no1 has tasted six defeats in her past eight matches on clay, so understandably is eager to return to grass.
And she has been restricted by WTA rules to compete at Birmingham’s AEGON Classic, as top 10 players are not permitted to enter more than two International Series events a season.
Wozniacki, 22, revealed: “I guess it’s good that it’s the last tournament on clay because it hasn’t been the best clay season this year for me. So now I shall just go back and practice again as I try to prepare for Wimbledon.
“I will most likely go to Eastbourne a bit earlier to get some longer practice on grass. I really like it there and it’s a great tournament – I love playing on grass.
“It’s one of my favourite tournaments atmosphere wise, so I don’t mind going a bit earlier. Every time I go to Eastbourne I always feel happy, so I’m excited to go and play on it.”
Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Li Na, whose controversial comments to Chinese media following her earliest ever French Open exit, is going to request a wildcard for the 2013 AEGON International according to sources close to http://www.eastbournetennis.com
Li, twice a Wimbledon quarter-finalist and 2011 French Open champion, hasn’t entered the grass court event in Birmingham so is expected to be at Devonshire Park for what promises to be a tough draw in the Ladies event.
The Chinese no1 was questioned after her three set defeat to American ace Bethanie Mattek-Sands but did not take kindly to this.
Li retorted: “Do I need to explain? It’s strange. I lost a game and that’s it. Do I need to get on my knees and apologise to them?”
Zhang Rongfeng, a journalist for China’s official press agency Xinhua News, has controversially reported: “Her bad temper and losing the game and were direct triggers of her episode at the presser.
“But if we take a closer look, her unfriendliness has a lot to do with her lack of professionalism. As a successful athlete, Li Na may be very professional with her training, game experience, PR team operation, and so on – but she is not with her attitude towards the media. She’s impatient and not respectful enough to the media.”
Li arrived at Roland Garros having easily dispatched Mattek-Sandsen route to the final in Stuttgart last month, but following a second break for rain lost seven games on the trot that cost her the chance of progressing into the French Open 3rd Round.
Li was swift to defend this lapse at the press conference and said: “I know for sure I lost seven games in a row. But to go back to the court three times is a very tough condition, you know.”
Should Li return to Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park this summer, then no doubt the unpredictable English summer could also upset her and result in more excuses as well as controversial comments that are seeing the Chinese no1’s popularity starting to slip.
Bernard Tomic, who withdrew from the 2013 French Open due to a hamstring injury after losing the opening two sets to Victor Hanescu, should be fit in time for his return to Eastbourne.
Tomic required treatment after 10 minutes of the opening round contest, and it was the second time this year he has quit against the Romanian after conceding with a leg injury in Dubai.
But the Monaco-based Australian is set to rest before competing at Queen’s in London before his last warm-up for Wimbledon at the 2013 AEGON International.
Tomic fell in three sets to Italian Fabio Fognini in his opening match, a 2nd Round clash, at the 2012 AEGON International as no4 seed. This year he won’t be among the seeds and could be a dangerous floater.
There are some rumours flying around claiming that Tomic deliberately withdrew at Roland Garros when he was on the verge of defeat, which was because of the ban by the French Open organisers on his father and coach John.
And Wimbledon’s All England Club are set to match this ban at SW19 for The Championships that start on 24 June. An All England Club spokesperson said: “We are supporting the ban on accreditation pending his investigation/trial. We will also look to prevent entrance by ticket.”
The International Tennis Federation has rejected Tomic’s father’s coach’s accreditation application for 2013 Wimbledon because of assault charges in Madrid, Spain.
Tomic, who made a major impact as a 18-year-old at 2011 Wimbledon to become the youngest men’s quarter-finalist since Boris Becker in 1986, was not a popular figure at SW19 last year and was booed out of the court after taking chunks out of the hallowed turf with his racquet following a shock defeat to David Goffin.
Although his father will be travelling with him to England for the grass court season, both Queen’s and Eastbourne are expected to also initiate bans.
Tomic explained: “My father’s still working with me, nothing’s really changed. He’s still my coach and he will always be because I grew up with him and he knows me better than everyone else.
“But I might put someone else on board that can help my dad and those two people can negotiate. Not a coach, but someone just to help me a little bit. I haven’t made a decision yet on who.
“It might be a few weeks away yet, after the grass season. I probably have a choice of two or three people now. I will decide with my dad over the next week and who knows? Maybe you’ll see someone you don’t expect.”
Laura Robson has surprisingly withdrawn from the Ladies Doubles event at the 2013 French Open due to a back injury.
However, the British no1 is very likely to still compete in the 2013 AEGON International in her bid to warm-up for a shot at Wimbledon – where she won the Junior Championship aged 14 in 2006.
Robson was blown away by former Eastbourne champion Caroline Wozniacki in the opening round 6-3 6-2 reversal at the French Open, who then was shocked by in the second round by Serbian Bojana Jovanovski.
Robson was due to compete in Doubles with ex-world no1 Doubles ace Lisa Raymond of the United States.
But the 21-year-old Brit was advised to rest her back and is due to immediately return to London to prepare for the grass court season in England.
Robson has pencilled in to compete in the AEGON Classic at Birmingham before returning to Devonshire Park for the AEGON International ahead of The Championships at SW19.
However, following her poor performance in Paris, Robson will be fully focused on returning to her best at Wimbledon so if her back injury up she may be cautious about playing in back-to-back events at Birmingham and Eastbourne – although much will depend on her progress at the AEGON Classic before deciding whether to give the AEGON International a miss.
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Promising American teenager Madison Keys left the French Open courts in tears following defeat but is ready for a shot at making a name for herself on grass.
The 18-year-old, on her maiden outing in the main draw at Roland Garros, complained after her 6-4 7-6(2) reversal to Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig: “It was raining and dark, but I have to deal with it. On days like this the balls are heavy and everything is even slower.
“But this one defeat hurts more than the others. I just feel like I didn’t play my best. If I played my best then it probably wouldn’t have hurt as bad.”
Puig, a 19-year-old making her French Open debut on the WTA Tour, knew Keys’ game from their encounters on the Juniors circuit and was rewarded for her patient play with a 3rd Round contest against Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro.
But big-serving Keys is desperate to speed her career plans and make the world’s top 50 within the next 18 months. This aim starts with four back-to-back grass court tournaments in England.
She will kick-off at the second tier event in Nottingham followed by trying to make the main draw at the AEGON Classic in Birmingham and the AEGON International in Eastbourne before a shot at making a name for herself at Wimbledon.
Keys admitted: “Grass is faster than clay, so I’m happy. Clay is still not my favorite surface, it totally plays against me and my game.”
Heather Watson became the last Brit to bow out of the 2013 French Open, and went one better than compatriots Elena Baltacha and Laura Robson by winning a set.
But the Guersney’s ace 6-4 2-6 6-4 defeat to Swiss star Stefanie Voegele in a rain delayed contest means that there are no British players in the 2nd Round at Roland Garros for the first time in six years.
But Watson, the British no2, was not too far away from being back to her best following a two-month layoff from the WTA Tour because of glandular fever.
The 21-year-old said: “I wanted more matches under my belt before Wimbledon, but I will just work from here and do stuff to get fit for the grass court season.
“I’m pleased with how I played, I was aggressive. There’s two main things for me, being ready for the next shot and getting ready.”
Elena Baltacha, the world no200, looked out-of-sorts with a tame 6-3 6-0 defeat to former Eastbourne champion Ekatrina Makarova in the opening round of the 2013 French Open.
The ex-British no1, who returned to the WTA Tour following an eight-month layoff following ankle surgery after competing in the 2012 Olympic Games, will warm-up for a shot at making the main draw at Eastbourne by competing in a couple of second tier grass court tournaments.The 29-year-old only made the main draw at Roland Garros courtesy of a protected ranking due to her lengthy injury layoff, but was totally outclassed by the gritty New Zealander in just under an hour.
Baltacha explained: “I actually retired after the Olympics. I kept it to myself but I knew I was going through the motions, I just fell out of love with tennis.
“But the things I really hated about it are the things I really missed, it was really bizarre and I realised how much I love tennis. The biggest thing I missed was the one-on-one competition.
“My world ranking hasn’t really fallen that much, but I’ve got points to defend – and July would be the last points I have to defend. I know I have to be patient and going to be in qualifying a lot on tour, but I’m happy as long as I keep improving.”
Marion Bartoli, who missed out on getting former Eastbourne champion Amelie Mauresmo as coach, has hired Thomas Drouet as her practice partner.
Drouet, who was the hitting partner of Bernard Tomic before he suffered a broken nose and compounded vertebrae in an allegedly unprovoked head-butt outside a hotel during the 2013 Madrid Open by Tomic’s father John, begins his new role for the French Open.
Bartoli, the highest ranked French player on the WTA Tour, has struggled for form ever since her initial split from her father.
And she has returned to working with her father after two coaches in as many months failed to improve her game, partly due to her unorthodox style that has long been frowned upon by the French Tennis Federation.
Bartoli was aiming to find a suitable coach in a bid to win a Grand Slam title and wanted Mauresmo, who is excelling in charge of the French Federation Cup, because she had reached the coveted world no1 status and won majors during a highly successful career.
But Bartoli, the 2011 AEGON International champion, has an aggressive game that is suited to grass and has finished runner-up at Wimbledon.
The forthcoming grass court season will be a golden opportunity for Bartoli to get back on track and leap back into the world’s top 10 if she can – as expected – pull off impressive results at Eastbourne and SW19.
By Jay Busbee
And plenty of tennis players are being served up some inexplicable criticism.
Ukraine-born American Alex Kuznetsov, virtually anonymous as the world no171 on the ATP Tour, played his way into the main draw of the 2013 French Open but lost in the 1st Round.
He made it to a major, which is more than most of us will ever do, but that wasn’t enough for some Twitter folk.
And American Tim Smyczek, who was knocked out during qualifying a Roland Garros, also got the brunt of an irate fan.
The most plausible explanation for the attacks levelled at Kuznetsov and his little-known tennis-playing ilk is that there’s money on the line.
Bookmakers had made Kuznetsov a marginal favourite against 19-year-old French rising star Lucas Pouille. But when he lost, he faced the wrath of those who had bet on him.
While not all insulting post-defeat tweets mention gambling directly, tennis players believe that’s typically the motivation.
What’s interesting is how many of the tweets come from Eastern Europe, where online gambling is legal and tennis gambling is omnipresent.
Tennis offers the angry gambler the tempting target of a single human being because you can’t yell at a horse, a deck of cards nor a lottery ticket for falling short!
It’s an ugly sidelight to social media, and one that’s not likely to change soon. We’ve always behaved badly; now we can do it in front of the entire world.
Just be careful, cyber-tough guys. You might just anger some athlete or celebrity enough that they come hunt you down.
The British no3 dismissed China’s Saisai Zheng 6-1 6-3 but then fell to Kazakhstan’s Galina Voskoboeva 4-6 6-3 7-5 in the 2nd Round qualifier at Roland Garros.
Konta admitted: “I must learn from my mistakes and I will work harder. Gutted is an accurate description of how I’m feeling right now. I’m getting physically stronger and I enjoy grass, even though it’s a short season.
“I’m really looking forward to the grass season and thrilled with the tournament coming up in Eastbourne as it’s my home event. I love it in Eastbourne as it is my getaway. I train up in London, which is very busy so when I come back it’s my little haven.”
The 22-year-old, born in Sydney to Hungarian parents, became a British citizen in May 2012 and trains at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton under Louis Cayer.
Konta reached her highest WTA Tour ranking of no142 in February 2013, but with an impressive showing at the grass court events at Birmingham, Eastbourne and Wimbledon could break into the world’s top 100.